Why Hackers Targeted Pfizer's Facebook Page: "One Google Search and I'm In"

Last Updated Jul 20, 2011 11:39 PM EDT

The takeover of Pfizer (PFE)'s Facebook page by the Script Kiddies last night, an offshoot of the Anonymous hacker organization, shows that no corporate target is too trivial -- especially if your internet security is weak. The hackers changed Pfizer's profile photo to its monocled Vendetta mask logo, and added several cheeky posts to the company's wall. (Click images to enlarge.)

After a quick chat with Facebook, Pfizer now has things back under control. Two things jump out about the incident:

  1. In one post, the hackers said: "The guy in charge of this Facebook. Hint for next time: Protect this company with a LITTLE better security. One Google search and I'm in." Underneath, the hackers posted a link to the Linkedin page of Paul Dyer, an executive at social media agency WCG who launched much of Pfizer's social media operations. A message left for Dyer was not returned but his assistant confirmed he was aware of the Pfizer incident. The Script Kiddies' message seems to be suggesting that it was easy to locate the information needed to access Pfizer's Facebook account. Surely the password wasn't "Paul Dyer" or something similarly obvious? (Interestingly, this wasn't the first "technical glitch" on Pfizer's Facebook page.)
  2. The hackers claimed to be protesting Pfizer's infamous Trovan trial in Nigeria on 200 children during a meningitis outbreak. But the hackers displayed limited and mistaken knowledge of what happened in the Trovan scandal. In a Twitter interview in the small hours of this morning, a Script Kiddies hacker said:
    I am not expert, nor have i done extensive research, on Pfizer's wrongdoings, but I know enough to take action; something we all should try.
    their drug Trovan killed 11 Nigerians out of 200 given the drug.
    The Trovan trial took place in 1996 and Pfizer settled the last of the litigation in February after agreeing to pay $75 million in compensation. The Script Kiddies did not appear to realize that of the 11 deaths, six were among the children who received the standard anti-meningitis treatment, not Trovan, and the overall survival rate was higher in both arms than the survival rate for untreated patients. While some of Pfizer's actions were bad -- allegedly trying to bribe local officials and/or blackmail them -- it's far from the worst drug scandal ever to plague the industry. It's also 15 years old.
All this suggests that Pfizer wasn't targeted because the Script Kiddies care deeply about the ethics of pharmaceutical trials in Third World countries. Rather, it seems as if Pfizer's page was hacked because it was easy, and the hackers dreamed up a rationalization for the achievement after the fact.

You have been warned, Corporate America: Update and strengthen your passwords now.